Monarch has had the travel industry and its customers in a tizz since the end of September. The stalwart of low cost flights and cheap package holidays had a wobble of the financial variety. The timing of events tallied to the renewal of its ATOL certification (Air Travel Organisers Licence) and another holiday company appeared destined for the travel brand bench in the sky.
Speculation has never been so subdued
Yet for once, we saw an industry and a consumer base rally around this much loved household name. ATOL led the charge with its 12 day licence extension. The industry followed with its genuine support for Monarch CEO Andrew Swaffield. Consumer fears were allayed by proactive investment talks and forthcoming communications from the business.
As we waited with baited breath for news from down-to-the-wire talks, there was more hope in the air than has been sensed in the industry for many a month.
In 48 years of trading, Monarch has taken most of us somewhere in Europe. It has carved out niches. It has faced adversity. It has risen again and again. It’s about to do that all again.
Us Brits have a soft spot for a battler
You see Monarch hasn’t glided through the last few years with a silver spoon in its proverbial mouth. Its P&L has demonstrated more ups and downs than the average school kids yo-yo. But it’s a business that in the last two years has had the financial and strategic backing of a business saving investor (Greybull Capital).
During that young tenureship Greybull has proven its worth by bringing Monarch back into the profitable black. While it did so with some significantly difficult adjustments to its model and staff structure, it did it with grace and aplomb. The outcome: a robustly intact brand reputation and loyal customer following.
The reservists hate a bragger
Now Monarch won’t blow your socks off with its marketing. It’s unlikely to win any awards for brand innovations. If it did, I can’t imagine it shouting about them overtly. But Monarch is a pretty sound example of how sticking to what you know and doing it well, can curate a loyal following.
Since introducing the Monarch blog in 2011, they’ve maintained open communication with their customers. From their blog you’ll find the latest flight routes, destination inspiration and behind the scenes insight as well as their latest news and press statements.
Monarch’s social media activity has that pleasant, easy-on-the-eye look, feel and tone to it too. What’s not to like.
And Monarch’s handling of recent events has taken a similar tone and strategy - open and informative as and when was possible and appropriate. Because Monarch doesn’t do shock tactics and sensationalism, its customers and peers gave the brand the time it needed to come to a resolution they all hoped for and expected. This time around it worked.
A case in point for the travel industry
However, Monarch’s brush with ATOL retirement and financial obscurity naturally raises the questions how and why did this happen. The difficult trading conditions created by terrorism, the Brexit vote and weaker Pound have all contributed to a challenging 2016 for tour operators, accommodation providers and the aviation industry. For Monarch in particular it prevented them from selling holidays to Egypt - a significant proportion of their business - and impacted sales of package holidays to Turkey.
To weather this unpredictable storm, Monarch needs a cash injection to continue the roll out of its efficiency strategy and the economies of scale that will come from having a new fleet of more efficient planes.
But Monarch isn’t alone in this challenge. To put an appropriately positive spin on things, the travel industry is dynamic and constantly evolving. The agility required of travel brands in the current climate will continue to be tested in 2017. The brand loyalty accrued by Monarch in the last 48 years and bolstered by its digital marketing strategy will be the envy of many a travel company.
What shape is your brand reputation in?
How do your customers think of you? What do you do in the name of customer loyalty to drive repeat business? How would your customers and industry peers react if your business found itself in a similar situation?
Whatever you do, if you think you could do it better, let’s talk.